DA Whitewashed Neo-Nazi in Assault Trial From 2017 Trump MAGA Rally

Jessica Aguilar: Protesting Nazis while brown. Photo illustration by Federico Medina/mugshot courtesy the Orange County district attorney’s office

When twice slapped in the face by 5-foot-4-inch college student Jessica Aguilar during a clash between white supremacists and anti-fascists at a March 2017 pro-Donald Trump rally in Huntington Beach, neo-Nazi antagonizer Tyler Laube laughed it off as inconsequential. 

But to Deputy District Attorney Laila Nikaien, the slaps warranted arrest, prosecution, consumption of public resources for more than two years, 25 court appearances and the chance to put Aguilar, a member of Antifa, in jail for a year, while giving Laube another opportunity to laugh.

Though the neo-Nazis committed the most brutal acts of violence during the rally, including Laube’s unprovoked pummeling of then-OC Weekly intern Frank John Tristan, local prosecutors decided to pursue charges against only one person: Aguilar, a Latina. 

You might think Orange County’s government officials would go out of their way to prove they aren’t aligned with white supremacists, especially given shifting demographics decidedly moving the area’s voting habits away from the neanderthal extremists who dominated much of our history. But outbursts stemming from an ugly past continue to emerge. We’re home to white students openly celebrating Nazism, donning blackface to degrade African Americans and, long before Trump’s rise, wearing costumes belittling Latinos as inferior. 

In a recent video, Garden Grove teenagers sang a pro-Adolf Hitler marching song. Newport Harbor High School kids were caught in March proudly playing an alcohol drinking game involving the display of a swastika, arguably the most un-American symbol in history. Not long ago, Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin advocated the passing of the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” proposed legislation that would require the state to put a bullet in the heads of all gay citizens. 

In that aftermath, homosexuality-obsessed white supremacist Samuel Woodward, who carried fascist symbols on his iPhone, lured 19-year-old college student Blaze Bernstein to an inland-OC park in January 2018. Investigators believe Woodward considered himself a soldier in the Atomwaffen Division, which sees an impending race war. Gay, Jewish and immensely talented, Bernstein was found buried in a shallow grave; he’d been stabbed more than 20 times. Woodward now faces murder charges.

Laube is a member of a combat-ready white-supremacist outfit called Rise Above Movement (RAM), which espouses anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and Nazi dogma about protecting caucasians under the ruse they’re “defending America.” According to an FBI report, he worked with other like-minded activists to incite violence against brown-skinned individuals, practiced hand-to-hand combat and produced “white unity” videos. At the aformementioned Make America Great Again (MAGA) rally at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, he gave the “heil Hitler” salute. His group also traveled across the country to participate in the white nationalist’s 2017 melee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But in People v. Aguilar, which played out in West Court near Little Saigon last week, prosecutor Nikaien repeatedly hailed Laube in absentia as an innocent, nonviolent “victim.” She told jurors he’d come to the rally merely to express political support for Trump and found himself under attack for exercising his constitutional right of free expression. Video shows his group chanted at Aguilar and her group, “Fuck you, bitch,” “Pussy” and “Build that Wall.” They also waved a sign proclaiming, “Da Goyim Know,” referring to a neo-Nazi conspiracy theory that there’s an international Jewish plot to control the world. 

“Mr. Laube did absolutely nothing [wrong],” Nikaien told jurors in shamelessly deceitful assertions. “He didn’t even try to use force.”

Illustration by Mark Dancey

Such misinformation collides with perceptions that courtrooms are forums for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are stages for carefully concocted fantasies. If Aguilar proved anything, it’s the lengths win-at-all-costs prosecutors in Orange County will go to manufacture a fake reality for juries. 

To pull off her charade, the prosecutor needed a willing co-conspirator—which she found in Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Glazier. In pretrial rulings, Glazier granted Nikaien her wish list of facts she did not want jurors to learn. Included in the off-limits information were Laube’s white-supremacist beliefs, membership in RAM, use of “heil Hitler” salutes, his criminal record, his beating of Tristan in the face with his fist in front of Aguilar, and even his lack of desire to see her prosecuted for the slaps.

“The fact that the victim is a white supremacist or a member of RAM is irrelevant to whether the defendant committed the charged crime,” Nikaien successfully argued. “The immense prejudicial effect of admitting such evidence would inappropriately pollute the jury’s assessment of the evidence in this case.” 

Meanwhile, the prosecutor saw nothing prejudicial about trashing Aguilar’s character as a lawless, left-wing villain. She repeatedly told jurors the defendant had ties to, in her belief, a trouble-making Antifa that opposes Trump’s policies. More than half a dozen times, Nikaien displayed an enlarged photograph of Aguilar wearing that group’s black garb with a caption reading, “GUILTY.” She added, “She’s dressed like a robber,” which was ironic given that Laube is the only one with a robbery arrest on his rap sheet.

Other shenanigans during the trial included the prosecutor advising jurors during her closing argument to “consider all the circumstances known to the defendant” at the time of the slaps as displayed in the courtroom on an aired video of the rally. What she didn’t tell the panel was that Glazier, a former prosecutor, had allowed her to edit out portions that didn’t suit her narrative, including Laube’s salute and attack on Tristan, as well as footage showing the neo-Nazis had left other MAGA protesters to aggressively challenge Antifa members from the rear. Having achieved that feat, the prosecutor then argued, “[The defense is] trying to fool you [about what happened]. Don’t fall for it.”

What made the actions of the prosecutor and judge more egregious is that it was plainly visible that defense counsel, James Segall-Gutierrez, had little criminal law experience. Segall-Gutierrez tried to rehabilitate the reputation of his “young idealist” client, who was at the time of the rally studying to become a social worker in Sacramento and felt the need to protest Trump’s attacks on Mexican Americans.

“She was there resisting fascism, that xenophobia, that hate,” Segall-Gutierrez told jurors. “She’s just standing there, dancing with her friends and holding up an Antifa flag. They are yelling at her. She flips them off. They’re yelling, “Fuck you, bitch!” She sees [Laube’s] right hand coming at her. She smacked him in the face. They were amused.” 

Getting the last turn to speak, Nikaien said, “[Antifa thinks] all Trump supporters are racists, so ‘we have a right to use violence.’ Violence in politics is not righteous. It’s cowardly. . . . Words, no matter how offensive, are not enough to justify battery.”

Whether the jury, which was comprised mostly of minorities, bought the prosecutor’s entire presentation isn’t known. But after less than 40 minutes of deliberation, they did accept Nikaien’s proposition that Aguilar had committed a misdemeanor. Glazier sentenced her to 20 days in jail, a term that will be suspended if she completes Caltrans roadside chores for 10 days.

Laube had pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to the Huntington Beach fight, but U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney tossed the case in June, opining that the FBI’s use of the Anti-Riot Act of 1968 to arrest him was unconstitutional.

CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.

19 Replies to “DA Whitewashed Neo-Nazi in Assault Trial From 2017 Trump MAGA Rally”

    1. Unfortunately, this is the status quo for prosecutors in my experience. Mine even intentionally lied in opening remarks. I had to tell my PD to object. It was sustained.

  1. I am so confused and angry over this rise in nazis with our youth in OC. I am 65 YO and a son and nephew of WW2 vets. Two of my uncles had the pleasure of enjoying several years as POWs when there B-17s were shot down. Who is raising these little brats. Have ther parents no WW2 vets who saw the horror show of what the nazis did and bitch slap these brats into reality of who the nazis were? This so disgusting. OR maybe we should encourage these little nazis to come out for all to see, then do what the GIs did after WW2. Hunt them down and shoot the scum who didnt surrender. Hey nazis go find and talk to WW2 GIs who fought in europe and find out what that salute really means.

    1. You’re just a brainwashed boomer who figured out how to use the internet yesterday. You can actually read lots of books and watch documentaries on who the nazis were, actually you can read it in their own words as the books are still available. If you really think groups of people are some cartoonish manifestation of good vs evil like Hollywood would have you believe, and you do believe. Its because you’re cartoonishly stupid or an utter liar like all of these “journalists”. You and your fat hedonistic generation destroyed America so just hurry up and die from your diabetes you took.

  2. Or how about we hold each person accountable for their actions? You hit someone, it’s battery, end of story. You do not need to know the sex, race, religion of a person to know if you lay your hands on someone you will be held accountable. Additionally, this entire situation boiled down to politics, I remember reading somewhere about a political group who attacked and silenced others that didnt share their thinking… Oh wait, that was the actual Nazi’s. Maybe before we start saying… “Im liberal in 2019 therefore I am right and have the right to do whatever I want” lets just love one another.

    1. You didn’t actually read the article, did you. What a shocker, that a libertarian chooses their own reality to make an argument. But sure: anyone who is against Nazis is a Nazi. Gotcha.

    2. But you *can* hit another person under certain circumstances and it is not a crime. For eg, if Aguilar witnessed the neo Nazi’s assault against Tristan, her acts, depending on the context, could have been relevant to her reas belief re the need for self defense or defense of others. (Esp if the “victim’s” prior violence came after his verbal abuse. Or if it was his “modus operandi” presaging another assault.) But it seems that the judge gutted Aguilar’s ability to raise this as a potential defense *and* allowed the DA to smear Aguilar while falsely implying the virtues of its complaining witness.

  3. I’m a vet of the early 1970s, but my uncles were all anti Nazi and anti fascist warriors in WW II. The tiny resistor fighting back has more courage than all the Nazis, the prosecutors, the judge, all put together.

    Real American patriots will put the home grown Nazis and Trumpian fascists down for the count. As for the self-proclaimed Libertarians, they should all immigrate to Somalia, where there is no real government, to find out what their idiotic political philosophy actually results in — misery for everyone but the top 0.02% with the guns and money.

  4. So JR, where would you send your anti-FA “heroes?”

    They belong in the ash bin of history with all their commie forefathers.

    Mox, you forgot to mention that your poor little ‘victim’ showed up for this planned confrontation wearing swim goggles to protect her eyes from the pepper spray that she brought with her.

    Anti-FA are no better than neo-Nazi scum. They just originate from the opposite end of the rainbow.

  5. Funny how the left are upset for being assaulted and not seeing anyone getting arrested or charged for assault when conservatives are assaulted constantly in portland by antifa in plain site and on video and no arrests are ever made. Andy kno was assaulted and robbed in the street more than 8 weeks ago with video showing those responsible for attack and not one person has been arrested. Hmmmm???

  6. Comment from a long way away in the UK. Please hear me out – we are closer to events than you might think and are also closer in a very real way to what actual fascism, actual freedom and actual legal/state corruption means.

    It is not funny that ‘those on the left are upset for being assulted’. It is deeply disturbing for those of us who have not lost their grip on civilised humanity. Of course those on the left (which over here just tends to mean balanced and non-ideological) are getting upset by the rise of the – let’s face it – dumb right.

    We have the perspective to understand that this is backwards and will only ever be destructive to a nation.

    When courts have pre-judicial procedures that remove any evidence from consideration that does not contribute towards the desired result based upon political or racial prejudice (yes, that’s where the word comes from) then you are in trouble. The loudest alarm bells should be ringing. Instead you talk of ‘the ash-bin of history’ for those who are trying to ring them.

    I weep for the USA. It could have been great.

  7. The rule of law protects every person, including people whose political beliefs we disagree with. Great job by the prosecutor and shame on the author of this bizarre polemic against her.

    1. The rule of law only protects when the court abides by the law. Shame on the prosecution and shame on the judge for hiding the truth from the jury and therefore punishing a woman for something that any logical person in their right mind would do – fight back to a aggressive, racist, neonationalist Nazi.

  8. I saw the closing statements in this case. What was really horrible was that this case was prosecuted when the alleged “victim” didn’t show or testify at the trial. That allowed him to be free of any questioning by the defense which really hampered the defense. His actions were shielded while the prosecution was free to attack the defendants character. The trial without giving jurors the full context of the rally was a travesty. The da office acted as an accomplice to this nazi rally and should be ashamed. It’s not always supposed to be about gaining convictions

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